Tuesday, June 17, 2008

New Beginning 517

It’s a minute past 18:25:43 — a thousand years and a minute since I first sat down here.

The mark hasn’t shown up yet. But he will.

alisononderson8109 wipes a cloth over my visual hub and tops up the glass on the table.

Soon, the lights will go out and we will sit together in the silence, pretending to be still. Standby and Red Alert.

And in the morning, the same unrecognisable faces will gather; a procession of the beguiled witless, shimmering through centrics of glass.

Will it move today? Will it speak?

I think not.

alisonanderson8109 teleports outside and titivates the souvenirs. I have keyrings, holo-buddies and ceremnemonic upgrades — all of them half-cocked nonsense. Tales spun of nothing in vacuums.

So. The lights dim again. All register of the tangible, now this. Each buzzing electron sapped of glow, yet still spinning, evident.

They are shrill, idiotic and wrong. I process their chatter because I find I must. Their fixed breath of hush and their swarm. It quiets the incessant hum. In the dark, this incessant hum.

At precisely 18:25:44 on ninthyear 0603-2069 the unthinkable happens.

It Moves.

alisonanderson8109 appears onstage as a million holo-buddies and ceramic bone-burners sparkle in the darkness. She tosses keyrings as she weaves among the cables and ports, reanimating the off-world bio-centric glass and carbons. She is tangible nonsense to the D degree{scion#@%}. The incessant hum surges in an audial “wave” and through my visual hub I spot the mark, but I am pretending not to so I watch the activity on stage.

alisonanderson8109 teleports to my side and in the humming, buzzing, electron-sapped darkness, the reverb from the disturbance causes the mega-watt subwoofers to short-circuit the flashing Red Alert signs at every exit as the amplified voice of legends spun from vacuum greets the hushed swarm.

It Speaks.

It is part carbonfiber/glassfission borg and the subject/object of a million myths and a thousand years and two minutes of anticipation. I am beside myself with the conflict between a millennium of evolutionary progress turning on the dime of my precise execution of the designated mark and the need to devote every fiber of my being to the appreciation of the phenomenal re-animation and canorous performance of Mick Jagger as he swaggers into the spotlight and with a practiced lilt says, “Good Evening, Ladies and Gentlemen, Are You Ready to Rock and Roll?”

Opening: WO.....Continuation: ME


Sarah Laurenson said...

As always, WO, you have quite an interesting imagination.

Too many long words that I had to slow down and parse broke the flow for me. It's one of those things that I have to read the longer words first and figure out what they say then go back and read the passage. Too much work for me.

It's intriguing just not sure it's intriguing enough for me to continue as I'm not really clear about what's going on.

Alisonwhatshername is spelled two different ways.

Deborah K. White said...

I'm sorry, but I really can't make sense of this. It seems to be in a bar or a nick-knack store, but I can't tell which.

Is this happening on a computer game? In virtual reality? Or are these characters robots?

Is this happening in the future or in the present or over thousands of years?

Why are they there? A hint is given at first, then is promptly dropped, so I wonder if I misunderstood. After that, the best I can figure is that nothing is happening despite all the words.

Perhaps you might make a few of the things clearer so that readers like me don't feel totally lost and confused...

Bernita said...

Liked it.Want to know what the alien is.
Only "Their fixed breath of hush and their swarm." threw me.

Stacy said...

I feel like I'm the only person who missed there was to be some sort of performance, perhaps on stage, in this opening. I get the impression the MC is in a bar, and that this is an opening to a story that is a mix of SF and hard-boiled detective.

For that alone, I would read on.

Anonymous said...

Cool. Is Mick still alive? --Bill H.

none said...

I keep wondering whether a minute past 18:25:43 means it's 19:25:43 or 18:26:43 or 18:25:44. You don't want me wondering that :).

EB said...

Color me intrigued...but confused.

Who does "They" in the 10th paragraph refer to? I assume we are going to see shortly, but as currently constructed, I interpret it as the electrons from the previous graph.

"Each buzzing electron sapped of glow, yet still spinning, evident" seems to violate what I remember of physics (whither Schroedinger?) but it reads well.

I'm not a huge fan of the time stamp in the first sentence. That and alisonwhazzername24601 seem to declare this is spec fic...but they're a bit disruptive to the eye. By which i mean a bit confusing to the flow.

Interesting though.

Anonymous said...

I thought it was pretty cool. It's only 150 words so it's unreasonable to expect closure, or even answers. I'd read on -- slowly!

Anonymous said...

Well, I liked the writing in this. It struck my fast and hard and I cranked out the cont rather quickly (and wordily, too). Did I think it was a little "overwritten" well, a bit. But there was so much packed into the scene, characters (alison + a number clued me into the likelihood of this being set in the future)and tone here, that my imagination just took off. Now whether I (or the author) will sustain that momentum is a question. And my only real claim to Sci-Fi reading (besides Bradbury?) is Michael Crichton and Vonnegut.
I must add that I am desperate to read a few more lines of this, having invested some part of myself into this storyline already!!! Please, WO, just another 'graph or two?

Dave Fragments said...

Whatever this is, it needs a few more words to explain itself. Also, it needs some grounding in something familiar. (Just to be precise, this is 177 words -close enough for our purposes.)

This is dense and hard to read. I think it is deliberately so. That may or may not be a good thing depending on what happens next in the story.

Apparently the speaker has artificial eyes and possibly several viewposts... the speaker is also a constant observer in a public establishment and seems a little cynical about the public.

First, It is not clear what the "hum" is or why is it troublesome. That's not the only unresolved issue.

Second, why is the time of day and the thousand years important? OR are those just details? If that is a gimmick to give the weight of time to something, it doesn't work. If it is backstory, drop it. Let the introduction float like electrons and other intangible images. Giving it seriousness with time makes it heavy and ponderous. This becomes an unresolved issue in the reader's mind.

"Soon the lights will go out ... And in the morning..." implies that the speaker stays overnight like a watchman. If that isn't true, you might need to clarify it.

Third: WHAT will move? What will speak? And why not? It is a lone statement. Is it the most effective device to get the reader's attention? It's like throwing a brickbat into a room and letting it go thud. Everyone knows it's there. I was master of this stunt at work. It's very effective used properly but it becomes another of the openings' unresolved issues. Those issues are building up.

Four: we find out that "I have keyrings..." as if the speaker is a store (or runs a store) filled with tourist goodies. Neato details, attention grabbing language but what are you trying to say here?

And that brings us to the last paragraph. It's a really interesting paragraph but it adds to all of the unknowns.

Help the reader out here. A reader needs a bit of grounding, something solid and familiar to begin with and then go off into the unknown realm, or the new reality (world) you are building.

Whirlochre said...

Thanks for the comments.

This is all there is to this one. I'm guessing its a germ of a short story and, who knows, I may even write it.

I envisioned the narrator as an android assassin or con-man, originally sat in a bar waiting for his target, but now stuck in a bar-turned-museum alongside souvenirs of the bullshit mythology that has sprung up around his silent thousand year vigil.

Maybe the target will never show and Hummy will settle for tin man love with AA8109 (I know, Sarah, I know — dummkopf typo). Or maybe Hummy is playing the long game and something horrible bursts through the floor during a kiddie's Poke N Prod Hour, compelling him to whip out his weaponry.

Or — and I was thinking more along these lines — maybe he'll just continue to sit, resigned to his lot but still disturbed by it. He has a minute's reflection right at the start so maybe he's become a meditative All Purpose Destruction Bot (or whatever).

I'd be interested to know which part you think is overwritten, ME ("All of it! All of it"). Writing it took 2 stages. Everything up to 'vacuums' is pretty much what I have in my notebook, and once I'd decided to use it as a submission, I fleshed out the ending with the lights and the visitors. These last 2 paras don't work for me — especially the 'shrill'. He's behind so much glass he can only be reached by teleport. And, yes, Benwah & Bernita (an ice cream franchise if ever there was one) — 'they' and 'their fixed breath' are suspended in confusion.

So - an android bugged by his own hum. A must for all fans of Spoonerisms.

Great continuations btw — especially the chosen one.

Robin S. said...

Will it move today? Will it speak?

I think not.

This is cool. I normally don't 'get' this kinda deal- mainly because I'm not used to reading it.

But this, WO, I liked it a lot.

And ME - good stuff on your continuation!

McKoala said...

I liked this up until the last two paras, because by then I was thinking I needed something more solid to hold on to - and those last two paras didn't seem to add anything other than confusion.

Here's what I thought was going on...I thought that the protag might actually be a computer that thought it was human. 'visual hub' - his sitting still in the silence - the unrecognisable faces through the glass etc. I also thought the souvenirs might feature him. Loved the souvenirs and alisonanderson8109. And the melancholy tone. I think it's a great start.

writtenwyrdd said...

There's a lot that I like about this--it's an interesting voice with unique word usages, for example. However, it's still not quite clear enough. You do weird really well, WO, but don't forget that you need to dribble breadcrumbs so your readers follow your ideas. It's a fine line to walk, but I think you're mostly there. I would have read on, by the way. This is very old school cyberpunk in feel, and I like that.

Whirlochre said...

Thanks WW — I have trouble leaving clues without writing HERE IS A HUGE LOAF OF BREAD.

talpianna said...

You mean it's NOT another chapter of Dave's interminable autobiography?

none said...

If Dave understands an opening, it's got too many words; if he doesn't, it's too dense.

What many SF readers--well, at least the older ones--like is that sense of wonder, that WTF is going on here? So it would be pretty stupid to write that out.

Xiexie said...

I read this thrice (I just wanted to use thrice today so ^_^ yay!) before I got it, but once I having it, I understood the scene. I do think it is a bit dense. I had the same problems with it as Sarah: long big words broke up the flow for me.

Good job, whirlochre.

Stacy said...

Yeah, I'm one of those readers who would need a few breadcrumbs.

Sometimes I'm too lazy to figure out the world-building stuff in SF. I think that's why I gravitate toward fantasy; the world-building feels a little more accessible to me because so much of it is based in history. (I'm generalizing here, I know.) And I'm certainly not making a criticism of SF. It's more a criticism of myself for sometimes being a lazy reader.

That said, with a few breadcrumbs, I would not only read on, but be hooked.

Stacy said...

The continuation for this was hilarious, BTW.

writtenwyrdd said...

I agree with Buffy--you don't want to make it 100% spelled out, but you do need to get that sense of odd but understandable, so that it's not all gibberish or confusing. That's what I meant by a fine line to walk. I really love odd worlds that require me to do some work to fit inside them, but the artistry is the writer making the words make sense even when they do not.

Anyone who reads sf will likely understand what I meant. Or I hope so!

Sarah Laurenson said...

Maybe it's me, but the sniping is getting old.

none said...

It's no older than the relentless sex jokes. And has more substance.

Probably its being grounded in history is what I least like about a lot of Fantasy--if only because it's so often the same history, and it's regurgitated from the last three novels the author read rather than being researched at source.

Whirlochre said...

Researching at source is the only option - bar making everything up.

Thanks for the comments.

Evil Editor said...

Unchosen continuations:

Suddenly comes the crackle, the pain inexorable, much as I fight it, there can be no resistance. My limbs are seized, jerked around like a marionette on strings of lightning! It has come! It has come at last!

I try to fight It, try with every last fiber of my being, but it's no use. After all this, all our planning, my last hope is gone. The crackle flares again with a garish white-yellow-red, as I jerk forward, and It speaks:

"Wait till you try out my new video game, Billy! It's really neat, you'd swear the characters are really alive!"

--Panda Rosa

alisonanderson8109 smiles after the others leave and titivates my hard stimulant hub. It took a thousand years, but, suddenly, this place isn't so bad.


"All fixed." The skinny man smiled at Alison. "How long has this been acting up?"

"Last night someone spilled a beer on it and it started making that sound."

"OK." He slammed the little metal door closed. "These games ain't supposed to be used as tables. Ruin the electronics and all. OK?"

"Yeah," agreed Alison. Why did they keep this miserable old Space Invaders here at the bar, anyway?


This incessant hum. This incessant hum. This...

The interuption of a shotgun blast ends my torture. Gratitude is a keyring.


"Holy thesaurus, Batman! Are you sure you're using those words right?"

"No Robin, but all great literature has ill used words."

"Okay, but if you try to titivate my centrics, I'm calling the cops."


I glance at my chronometer. Ten minutes. Another lifetime. And in he walks.

My eyes align with his image. I check the minute again. Irritation; both. He shrugs. "Sorry babe. Long meeting."

My head oscillates. I look at him looking at the empty glasses. How many? "Justfew," I say.

His pneumatic sigh.

"Come on, Princess." He reaches for my arm. "Let's get you home before you throw up. The movie can wait; I'm not taking you anywhere until you're coherent."